Biloxi dubs Martin Luther King Day ‘Great Americans Day,’ garners national criticism

Original tweet by the City of Biloxi Friday night.

CBS NEWS BILOXI, Miss. — There’s a lot in a name, the city of Biloxi in southern Mississippi is learning after facing social media backlash for posting online about closures for “Great Americans Day” on Monday, which is federal holiday honoring civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr.

It started with  just before 7 p.m., when the city of Biloxi posted on Facebook and Twitter the list of closures for Great Americans Day, but didn’t reference Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, CBS affiliate WLOX reports.

Biloxi’s website notes MLK Day, but says “non-emergency municipal offices in Biloxi will be closed Monday in observance of “Great Americans Day,” the official city name for the holiday. All offices will re-open Tuesday at their appointed times.” The website also has a post that was published Friday night says “MLK Day takes center stage this weekend.”

It appears the Facebook post was later edited to include that Great Americans Day is a state-named holiday, and to include Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But a list of state holidays on Mississippi’s website has no mention of Great Americans Day, and lists the third Monday in January as observance of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general.

The city of about 44,000 wracked up thousands of comments and shares Friday night. The city responded to some of the comments on Facebook and tweeted that it is a state holiday.

After about two hours, the city tweeted that Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said “as far as I’m concerned, it’s called Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”

Vincent Creel, the man behind the social media account, told WKRG in Mobile that it wasn’t intended as a slight.

“The City of Biloxi, which has embraces diversity, did not name this holiday. As a matter of fact, the City of Biloxi supports, co-sponsors and touts our huge MLK celebration each year,” said Creel.

According to municipal documents, a city ordinance did in fact adopt “Great Americans Day” back in 1985.

“We definitely want to remove any doubt that that piece of paper or that term or official name. We can correct that,” Gilich told WLOX Friday night. “My direction to the folks who handle those responsibilities, as far as I’m concerned, it is Martin Luther King. If we have to do something to match the designation by the federal government of the holiday, then we will.”

Only three states combine the celebration of King and Lee’s birthdays; Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas, according to WLOX.

“If there’s a perception of racism with not honoring the federal holiday and controversy over the name, the council would be willing to revisit and revise the 1985 ordinance,” Gilich told WLOX.

Social media erupted and the news went national, quickly.

Saturday at 6, we’ll show you what people are saying locally.

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